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Bettendorf teachers

Bettendorf teachers, many of whom wore red T-shirts, were among the audience members who packed the room at the Monday night's Bettendorf School Board meeting.

Should a school district superintendent be the one to decide how much teachers get paid for extra work?

That's one of the policy changes the Bettendorf School Board is discussing, and a union official is rallying teachers to advocate for the chance to negotiate salary payments, as the district's contract now allows.

At a board meeting Monday, Superintendent Mike Raso said the proposed policy changes would bring them in line with the new collective bargaining law, and are based on recommendations from the Iowa Association of School Boards. The changes would take effect after the current contract, which was collectively bargained, expires on June 30, 2020.

The law, passed in 2017, made base salaries the only item that must be collectively bargained. Other topics that were mandatory or permissive in bargaining now are prohibited, which means they can’t be taken to an arbitrator, said Toby Paone, union representative and UniServ director at Iowa State Education Association, during a meeting with 21 teachers whom he urged to speak to school board members.

Paone argues a switch in wording from "salary schedule" to "licensed employee compensation," removes the chance for the union to collectively bargain salary increases and payments for other work based on length of service and education level.

That “gives almost sole power and discretion to the superintendent to decide who gets what," he said, something he claimed was a very limited interpretation of the law.

"There are seven votes on that board. We need four of them," he told the gathering. "In order for us to push forward and to get what we want and need out of it, we have to convince the board that our side is right. When I read that policy draft, it was very clear: The superintendent, if this is passed by the board of education, he or she becomes the king or queen and can then determine your fate. Which is a road to ruin."

Under the new state law, additional topics can be addressed locally, meaning that the Bettendorf School Board and the Bettendorf Education Association could agree to talk about them, Paone said. But they are not required to do so.

"It's about who controls your future. Is it going to be us - including the administration and the school board - or is (the power) going to be held by a single person?" Paone asked.

He encouraged teachers to attend the Nov. 5 board meeting, as they did last Monday: "The more bodies we have, the stronger our arguments are."

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.

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